I have a Popping Assistant who roasts each individual kernel to fluffy perfection separately. I found a way of writing off her minimum wage pay three times over so the expense in minimal. And worth even if I couldn't! -- Charles Koch
Paper bags are pretty much all recycled nowadays, which means they have plastic bits, heavy metals, and all sorts of chemicals in them and are not safe for food preparation.
I've used the Presto for over a decade and love it. And, yeah, that glass one that was reviewed a few years back is horrible, oftentimes more than 50% of the kernels go unpopped in it, I threw mine away.
There is a newer, simpler construction, less expensive model that works just as well as the one featured in the article (I have both). I like it a lot. Unlike hot air poppers, the popcorn is not dried out so I often eat it without oil or butter.
I'm not fond of W-Mart, but where I live if I want to buy anything other than guns, ammo, or fishing gear, it's either drive 50 miles or shop at the Evil Empire. On the plus side, there's no Starbucks here, either.
Another great (but odd) topping is nutritional yeast. Has a cheesy flavor. Got it originally to make dairy free pesto.
The only drawback to these (we've used one exclusively for years, we actually have two) is that they need the mildly aluminized paper discs for the bottom. I don't fear the aluminum, but they do cost money, they'll run you about 50 cents each minimum, they're not easy to find cheap online -- I do pick them up at WalMart when I can't find them online for cheap. You can get two uses out of them sometimes.
We tried a NordicWare which is like a ceramic-looking plastic that doesn't use inserts, but it wasn't nearly up to the standard. We use that as a bowl now, if we still have it.
Why buy a special gadget for popping corn in a microwave? All you need is a big glass or ceramic bowl with a plate on top - things you probably already own if you're considering spending $16 on a gadget to microwave popcorn in.
If you pop the corn without oil, you can get more uses out of the discs. I get 8-10 uses per disc, I don't see what would cause them to get burnt up so badly besides oil.
The Nerf Civilization strikes again.
I like my Nordic Ware popper just fine; the money's already spent and the thing will probably survive beyond my life because it's tough as nails. I can live with a few unpopped kernels in exchange for not having continual equipment expenses. It's the same rational behind purchasing a gold filter for the coffee maker one time rather than buying paper filter of dubious origin/quality in perpetuity.
When my daughter was in in 3rd grade she attended a small charter school which has pretty liberal eating policies (they even were allowed to chew gum in the classroom). At some point, popcorn became the in snack but with all the kids lining up at the one microwave, it just wasn't working too well. So I sent in an air popper and the kids thought that was amazing. Then recently, my daughter was going to a movie night at her high school (not sure what club was doing this but it wasn't a big event) and she once again wanted to take an air popper.
I think there is an entertainment value to air poppers, especially for the kids who are growing up with microwave popcorn and never get to watch it pop. Probably not the best solution for the office, but it's nice to know if you have a crowd of kids to entertain.
Growing up we always just made it in a pan on the stove top... My favorite thing was to sneak the cover off to let the first few kernels fly free -- mom was not amused the times that I would get bored waiting and walk away without putting the cover back on.
'If you put butter and salt on it, it tastes like salty butter.' --Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
I use the Orville Redenbacher air popper... and use a small phone book (it's the only reason I keep it around)... to sit under the front of the popper until the popcorn fills up enough to come out the chute...that tilts it back and prevents the problem of the uncooked kernels being shot out into the bag... I catch the popped corn in a paper bag... which I then add light tasting olive oil to and butter flavoring (powdered)... the combination of the two gives the impression of real melted butter... and hopefully is better for me.
The best popper by far is a Stir Crazy popper. $25-30 usually but you can pick them up at thrift stores regularly. A popper full happens in my house most evenings (Yes I buy my corn in 50lb bags)
It has motor so that it stirs the popcorn as it heats. You choose how much oil to add. Much better than the dried out crud from an air popper. Way less oil than commercial microwave popcorn. Very very few unpopped kernels if you have good popcorn (unlike this type of microwave popper)
which is because popcorn is unflavoured styrofoam you can digest. It tastes like texture... and stuff stuck in your teeth. By itself it is a blank canvas, like salad, tofu, mushrooms (which is dirt flavoured foam). To make it good, you have to add crap that decreases the nutritional value of it. Might as well eat a bag of ice.
The real bonus of nutritional yeast occurs a few hours later in the lavatory. "Hey, look! I'm a highlighter!"
Turn on a black light and some Floyd to put on your own laser light show.
I've also had one of these for years. If you use oil, expect the cups to wear out after about 2 uses. The problem is that after a few uses, the corn pops slower and slower. And that means the already popped corn gets burned. So you have to stop it before most of the kernels have popped. In theory, you should let it pop until the time between pops is about 2 seconds. Second problem is that the bowl is too small. To pop the amount of corn we need requires two popping sessions.
So I very recently ditched the Presto, and got a Stir Crazy II. I had the original Stir Crazy prior to the Presto. It's big downside was that it was difficult to clean. Only the bowl could go in the dishwasher. That's been fixed, with a separate heating plate that comes off and goes in the washer too. And it has a good size bowl. Works great, and the Presto's gone in the trash.
I had one years ago, and now have the Stir Crazy 2. Now everything that needs to be cleaned can go in the dishwasher. No more having to get the heating base clean, without being able to put it under running water. Unfortunately, the "butters as it pops" feature still doesn't work. Butter right next to the vent holes will melt, leaving about 2/3rds unmelted.
I never use the butter melting function so that not working doesn't bother me. I'll have to try to Stir Crazy 2 when this one dies. It seems like after 1-2 years the motor dies usually.
But at 2x the price and the reviews on Amazon are pretty mixed about how that Stir Crazy 2 does compared to the original - mostly not even heating because of how the heating element is done.